Have you ever made something and you weren’t quite sure if you liked it or hated it? Or do you think “messing” with a classic just shouldn’t be done? Or does experimenting lead to new and inventive creations? And why the twenty questions? It all started with an exciting find at Seafood City, which is my local go to for Filipino groceries.
So what’s that device/contraption above? Polvoron molds! Like Leche Flan (see my former post on Pumpkin Leche Flan), polvoron wasn’t a childhood dessert I was accustomed it. Perhaps it was growing up in Hawaii, a third generation Filipino, that limited my knowledge and exposure to the language, traditions, and foods. And perhaps it’s that ”something is missing” feeling or my desire to pass my limited knowledge onto my own children that lures me to attempt to create a bit of my heritage through baking. So you see these Filipino desserts are my interpretation on the classics–yes some foreshadowing here (da da da da).
When I first tasted some Filipino polvoron, I couldn’t decipher exactly what was in it and how it was made. It is described as a “Spanish shortbread” that is heavy, yet very soft and crumbly. The Filipino polvoron should not be mistaken for the Spanish polvorones, which is where the inspiration for the Filipino version comes from.
You can imagine my delight as I saw these molds in the pots and pans section of Seafood City. At first I wasn’t quite sure what it was, but the label clearly read “polvoron” and I figured it was like a cookie cutter. I envisioned rolling out the dough very thick and using these “molds” to cut the cookies. AND was I wrong . . . not to mention shocked and embarrassed at my assumption.
Like most Filipino desserts (at least the ones I’ve made), polvoron has just a few basic ingredients: flour, sugar, powdered milk, and butter. Here’s the shocker, well at least for this Americanized Filipino, you do not “bake” polvoron. The flour is toasted until light brown and then mixed in with the other ingredients. This mixture is then shaped into these molds and then gently unmolded.
After reading several blogs/sites on how to make Filipino polvoron, I had my heart set on making two different flavors. It wasn’t the plain type or with pinipig (toasted pounded young rice), or even my favorite ube (purple yam). As I mentioned earlier these are based on my interpretation and feeling–you can say it reflects this American-born Filipino. The two flavors: Cake Batter and Lavender Vanilla Bean Polvorons.
Cake Batter (Birthday Cake) Polvoron
This was my first attempt at making polvoron. I should have known better than to experiment with a boxed cake mix on my first attempt, instead of using plain flour. Although the flavor was spot on to cake batter, the texture wasn’t as crumbly. I think this was because I was being overly cautious in toasting the flour. I toasted the flour in a large frying pan on the stove. The heat was probably too high and it turned brown very quickly. This is a “no-bake” cookie and psychologically I kept on thinking this is just odd for me. I mean isn’t my blog called ailovebaking?
I also noticed that it wasn’t as creamy tasting, which could be because I used non-fat powdered milk. This was all I had in my pantry. According to most recipes, whole powdered milk should be used. A brand that was suggested was Nido. Nido is made by Nestle and is considered a fortified powdered whole milk made for kids–not to be confused with baby formula. I have no formal recipe and instructions to post since this really didn’t come out, but if you are curious . . . 2 cups of boxed white cake mix, 1 cup powdered milk (I used non-fat for this one), and 1 cup of melted butter. No sugar was added since the cake mix already contained sugar. I then added some rainbow-colored sprinkles. I liked the flavor and I plan to revisit making this again.
Lavender Vanilla-Bean Polvoron
I can just hear the polvoron purists sighing in disbelief! First cake batter and now lavender? I recently made some lavender vanilla bean sugar intending to make some madeleines. But then I thought why not make polvorons instead? This may not necessarily sound too appealing, but I got my inspiration from strolling the lotion aisle at Target. I saw a lavender vanilla milk lotion and thought aren’t all of these edible ingredients? I had the lavender vanilla sugar waiting to be used and was excited to finally find some Nido powdered milk . . . and so the idea was formed, yes all from buying some lotion.
This was much closer to the texture of polvoron, but I think I still have the ratio of powdered milk and butter slightly off. It was much more crumbly, perhaps because I didn’t toast the heck out of the flour and did so in the oven this time. The oven may have been a more even heating source for the flour.
The Nido made a big difference in the taste–much more milky-creamy flavored. So what’s the verdict on the lavender vanilla? I think baking with any type of flower is an acquired taste. I loved it, but my hubby . . . said that he couldn’t get pass the lavender and said it was like eating soap?! But a few days later, he admitted that the lavender flavor mellowed a bit and it was tolerable. I did strain the sugar to get the lavender out, which I think was a good move since leaving the lavender would have been too overpowering. Again no formal recipe to post since I need to tweak the ratio of some of the ingredients to get that “perfect” crumbly, creamy, melt in your mouth polvoron.
Oh wait! You will notice that there appears to be lavender bits in the polvoron even though I mentioned that I strained the lavender from the sugar. Well . . . in my attempt to “color” the flour mixture, my lavender paste food coloring did not quite color the entire mixture. Instead it left specks of lavender color–but that’s okay it added the “illusion” of lavender bits.
And you may be wondering . . . how did you make that lavender vanilla bean sugar? Here’s the recipe: 1 cup of baker’s sugar (fine sugar), 1 tablespoon of dried organic lavender, and 1 vanilla bean (cut and scraped). Put all ingredients in a glass jar and shake it up–let the goodness infuse!